Author: Edward Stewart

More History

While we consider the consequences of terrorism, it’s history and its impact on us and our allies (and our enemies, who are not immune to terrorism either) let’s consider the humble dog.

Why the dog? Back in the day, each dog has been considered “the worst breed”.  Currently, the bully breeds (e.g., pit bulls) have that dubious honor, although it’s historically been other breeds such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, wolf hybrids, and the list goes on.

The same goes with people. Right now, ISIS is the most dangerous group in modern terrorism. Before that, there were areas of Canada (In Quebec, a Marxist group of nationalists that sought to build an socialist nation independent from the rest of Canada there), the U.S (Jewish Defense League, who declared its purpose was to protect Jews from antisemitism), Puerto Rico (FALN, whose goal was to have an independent Puerto Rico), and the Weather Underground (the weathermen) who, in the 1960’s, was a leftist organization which was anti-capitalist and anti-Vietnam War.

I could keep going. Going, in fact, as far back as the first century when terrorism was first documented when the Sicarii Zealots, led by Josephus, Judas of Galilee formed a small, extreme offshoot of the Zealots. Josephus claimed that the Sicarii would conceal their short or small knives and/or daggers under their jackets or cloaks, mingle with crowds at large events, like a festival, kill (or murder) their victims, then disappear when panic ensued. Most notable was their assassination of Jonathan, a high priest.

My point here is, it’s the Muslims’ turn to be the bad guys. Remember back in World War II when we incarcerated all of the Japanese Americans when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii? Gee, how did that work out for us? Forty years after the fact, the U.S. government finally apologized to it’s people of Japanese heritage. After a couple of years being locked up, these people tried to return to their homes and businesses but…they were gone, taken over by non-Japanese people. They couldn’t find jobs. They couldn’t get loans. It took years for them to acquire new land and get new houses.

Today, many families are suing the government to be paid back what their families lost. This is the price we pay for racism. This should teach us all that we are all people, no matter what color or race.

So, sure. We can ban all Muslims entering our country, screening both them and the ones that are already here, and figure out a way to effectively screen anyone else coming into the U.S. That’s what Donald Trump wants to do. Believe me, I’m all for taking any reasonable, cautious step after that 9/11 fiasco where we not only let the perpetrators into the country we actually taught them how to fly the planes they used to take down the twin towers. Talk about adding insult to injury! But what IS reasonable and necessary? Couldn’t it have just as easily have been another Timothy McVeigh? How do we know? What do we do to protect ourselves and our families? How do we make sure that the terrorists don’t win?

The history

So, where does the history of modern terrorism begin? Although it could possibly be disputed, we will call it the late twentieth century. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the militancy for the Islamic nation (in pursuing of political as well as religious goals) perpetrated such acts as the bombing of the World Trade Center.  There was also the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building and on the Tokyo subway that the gas attack of Sarin was on. The same time period also saw a rise in what is known as “single issue terrorism”. In other words, if the extension of domestic politics is terrorism, it is in the same way the war is for diplomacy, then it was the age of Environmental activism becoming Environmental terrorism, and the Right-to-Life movement becoming Anti-abortion terrorism.

Some other massive events that took place after the September 11 attacks in 2001 included the Moscow theatre hostage crisis in Moscow by Chechens who claimed allegiance to an Islamist separatist movement. Their goal was to get the Russians to withdraw from Chechnya. After a couple of days, the Russians pumped gas into the building and ended up killing more hostages than attackers. Things that make you go “huh”. A little heavy handed? Anyway, some of us remember that incident.

While Islamic forces, people for Beirut, ISIS and related middle eastern groups are definitely the major players in modern terrorism, we cannot blame them alone. We can’t even say they were first, if we go farther back in history (but that’s another story). Acts of terrorism take place all over the world, at any venue, at any time. They mostly target civilians, and women and children are not safe. The atrocities are unspeakable. Yet, these terrorists are a small subset of the religions they claim to represent. If we let them scare us, if we let them dictate the way we live our lives, then they win.

What makes them tick?

Last time, I promised you that I would find out what makes a terrorist tick. No matter what religious affiliation, no matter what nationality, terrorists have a few things in common. They are ruthless. They have no respect for life or property. And, strangely enough, today’s terrorists were radicals before they became religious extremists, not the other way around. The difference is very important.

Before 9/11, it took years of religious indoctrination before someone became a jihadi. Now, it’s a matter of impulse. Before 9/11, a jihadi was almost 28 years old. Now, closer to 20. For instance, Osama bin Laden had political demands and a goal, knew what he wanted with his war. On the other hand, modern terrorists make no demands. They have no political agenda. They are pure impulse and violence, fulfilling some primal need for death and glory. As an example, a couple of well known, alcohol drinking, drug using jihadis picked up the books “Koran for Dummies” and “Islam for Dummies” on their way from Birmingham to Syria. The next we see these blokes, they’re bombing Paris. No background in religion, only a criminal background. No demands or explanation, or relationship to sharia or the afterlife. Just bombs and death and headline news.

An amazingly thorough study by Rik Coolsaet of Belgium, and writings of Olivier Roy of France, point out that the radicalization of the modern terrorist arises around the fantasy of heroism, death and violence. Not of sharia and utopia. They note that the Islamic State has become a gang, celebrating violence for its own sake.

But is it just Islamic extremists? Is it just Muslims who are out of control, or are they just getting the press? Our front running Republican presidential candidate would have us believe that Muslims are the root of all evil, banish them from American shores or at least tag and bag ‘em. Doesn’t it sort of remind you of what happened to the Japanese during WWII? Well, maybe that’s just me. If we do that, if we treat Muslims in America as anything other than equals, Osama bin Ladin reaches out from the grave and grins, because he wins.

Who Are They?

Sometimes I wonder just how terrorists plan out and execute their activities. It has been proposed, for instance, that you should only hire local contractors who do an extensive background check on all new hires. The kind of local folks who have low turnovers in their companies. Just as a safety precaution for yourself and others.

I mean, for instance, what if you needed a new roof? You’d hire a commercial roofer, right? What if there was a terrorist on the crew, who suddenly had access to the industrial mixers, etc. That person wouldn’t necessarily do something to a roof, but could contaminate the food supply (think an industrial vat full of cherry pie filling contaminated with poison). See where this is going?

Now, I realize that some people will think that someone has to be really paranoid to think that way. Then again, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Who could have predicted the tragedies of 9/11 before they happened? Yes, I know, there is some evidence that the government had “chatter” that indicated something was supposed to happen on that date. Just my point; maybe we have to be suspicious of everything and nothing. Just play it safe all of the time, and then we don’t have to worry about the anomalies. It might be easier than this trying to pick the right needle out of a hay stack salted with pins…. And maybe a needle.

And, it’s not like terrorists are necessarily foreign invaders. Hell, the people who blew up the Centennial Olympic Park in 1996 were red blooded American. Using a pipe bomb, our own, home grown, terrorist struck in the wee small hours of the morning during the Olympics in Atlanta and ended up killing 2 and injuring 111. So, we not only have terrorists from foreign soils to worry about, we have our own wack jobs, with their own agendas, which sound strangely like every other religious militant in the world. God save us from religious extremists!

How did this happen? Where did they all come from? Is it, like, a family business? Just for the interest, I’m going to do a little research and try to answer that question for you in the next installment. In the meantime, be careful who you hire. Use caution where you eat.  Know your friends. Prepare for the worst but expect the best. And, if you own a company, it might be best to hire local but still do an extensive background check. You just don’t know who you can trust and who you can’t these days.

Treat Thy Neighbor With…? Respect?

On May 2, 2011, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US Special forces in an early morning raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Yet, his organization (along with affiliate ISIS) lives on, terrorizing the world we live in. It’s not only the Western world being terrorized, in 2014 ISIS invaded areas of Iraq and Syria, demanding allegiance of all Muslims worldwide on pain of death. And, they mean that literally.

So, what does this mean for us? And, who are we? I guess if you’re a Muslim, and living in the Western world wearing traditional dress, it means that the prejudiced lot stare at you, ostracize you, treat you as though you’re a terrorist even though you aren’t one. Can you imagine what it would be like to be a woman whose husband is arrested and his business shut down, all his inventory confiscated, your family’s livelihood gone, because someone reported “suspicious activity” to the police? Hmmmm…. Where do I stand on that?

On the one side, do I want all suspicious activity investigated? Oh, hell yeah. On the other hand, do I want some subset of our population targeted just because they look different? No way…. If we do that, then bin Laden wins. No way do I want him to even get ahead, let alone win.

And if this woman packs up her family out of sheer disgust and moves back to the middle east, can you imagine what she would say to her children, her neighbors, her family about us? I don’t want that kind of reputation. I don’t want us shooting ourselves in the foot. I don’t want us furthering the Al Qaeda agenda, do you?

So, I’m thinking maybe we should go back to that old adage, love thy neighbor as thyself. Maybe try to get to know some of these people who look a little different. Maybe do a little neighborly gesture instead of treating them like lepers. Who knows, it might work. It might not. It’s worth a shot though, right?